Do you want your hospital to be considered a regional referral center? According to an article published in the September 2014 issue of Today’s Hospitalist “Transferring patients from one hospital to another, quickly and easily” has become a top priority for hospital leadership. Why? Transfers are a source of new revenue and according to Martin B. Buser, MPH “a way to shore up finances”.
They need to increase market share as quickly and dramatically as possible,” Mr. Buser says. “You want your hospital to be considered a regional referral center, which means giving the thumbs up to transfers.” And you don’t need to be a teaching hospital “to become a successful regional referral hospital,” he adds. “Large community hospitals are intercepting transfers that formerly went to universities because they can give better service and are more responsive.” According to Mr. Buser, some client hospitals have realized a 15-to-1 return on every dollar invested in a new transfer center.
There are several things that must be in place for a successful transfer. One of them being accurate, up-to-date on-call information. A hospitalist or emergency physician at a referring hospital should be able to quickly and easily find out which regional centers are open for a specific service before initiating the transfer request.
Many regional referral centers struggle to have one source of on-call truth. In the absence of accurate specialty physician on-call information it can take 3-8 calls to get a patient accepted. First, you have to find a center that is open for the service you need, then, you have to find a hospitalist or the on-call specialist to accept your transfer. All of this takes time via phone calls and phone tag. Time is the enemy of many patients critical enough to require a transfer considering the large volume of patients transferred directly into an ICU.
One simple way to build a single source of on-call truth is with a web-based on-call management system that can automatically aggregate an entire hospitals on-call information into one simple to use system. Access to this system can then be given to referring hospitals who you wish to establish a better transfer relation with. An on-call management system like this can send a clear message that we are open for business and we want to make the process of transferring appropriate patients from your facility to ours as easy as possible.
We have heard several times that a hospital will call another hospital to see if they are open for that service (for example Neurology) and after hearing “no” so many times, they stop calling. According to Roy I. Sittig, MD, medical director of the hospitalist program and associate chief of medicine at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington, Conn. The bigger problem, as he sees it, is that “the process to get someone in can be a labyrinth that is not user-friendly to referring providers.” Too often, there is no one number to call to get a transfer started. Then there’s confusion about whether to call an admitting hospitalist or a specialist.
Clearly there are many facets to building and running a successful transfer center, one of them being up-to-date and accurate on-call information. This is one of the simplest problems to solve using a combination of process and technology.
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